KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - To prevent elected reps from jumping ship, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has required its candidates to pay RM10 million (S$3.38 million) fine if they defect to a rival party after being elected.
It is learned that all PKR candidates are required to sign the declaration letters or they will not get to receive their appointment letters.
It is not the first time the party has required their candidates to sign a "no ship-jumping" declaration. The same requirement was set during the last general elections at RM5 million.
Parti Islam Se Malaysia (PAS) predated PKR in requiring its electoral candidates to sign such a declaration letter. In Kelantan, a candidate even had to divorce his wife if he were to jump ship. Nevertheless, this requirement was later replaced by a standard nationwide declaration.
Such a move by political parties to require their electoral candidates to sign a declaration form reflects the phenomenon of widespread defection in Malaysian politics.
In the worst case scenario, party defection could lead to the collapse of an elected government, and we have had such an instance here before.
Currently this situation is more serious in the East Malaysian state of Sabah although we do have a fair share of party-hopping frogs on this side of the South China Sea.
We do not yet have any law at this moment to prevent elected reps from defecting to a rival party although there were talks of legislating a law to prevent politicians from jumping ship.
Unfortunately there has been no follow-up since.
Where there is no other way to stop an elected rep from ship-jumping, perhaps signing of declaration letters by electoral candidates appears to be the only workable solution even though its effectiveness remains disputable.
Take PAS for instance, although the party has since long ago required its electoral candidates to sign declaration letters, it is still unable to stop its leaders from crossing over to its splinter group Parti Amanah Negara, that is now a part of the leading opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH).
Legally speaking, indeed an elected rep has the right and freedom to quit his or her own party in order to join another organisation.
But in the context of Malaysian politics, voters cast their ballots largely in favour of their parties of choice instead of individual candidates, meaning a candidate gets elected mainly because of the party he or she is affiliated with.
As a consequence, jumping ship from one party to another is considered an act betraying voter mandate.
In short, ship-jumping must not be encouraged and must be prevented at all costs.
While the elected reps involved must bear a big part of the responsibility, the receiving party must also not be spared from the blame.
Unfortunately political parties have been wavering in their stand on party-hopping. While they condemn their own defecting reps, they receive with open arms defectors from a rival party.
To stop this unhealthy practice, it is utterly important that political parties are firm on this matter, and issue stern statements on their rejection of ship-jumping in either direction.
Sin Chew Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media.